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Mexico Drug War Update

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by Bernd Debusmann, Jr.

Mexican drug trafficking organizations make billions each year smuggling drugs into the United States, profiting enormously from the prohibitionist drug policies of the US government. Since Mexican president Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006 and called the armed forces into the fight against the so-called cartels, prohibition-related violence has killed more than 36,000 people, including more than 15,000 last year. The increasing militarization of the drug war and the arrest of dozens of high-profile drug traffickers have failed to stem the flow of drugs -- or the violence -- whatsoever. The Merida initiative, which provides $1.4 billion over three years for the US to assist the Mexican government with training, equipment and intelligence, has so far failed to make a difference. Here are a few of the latest developments in Mexico's drug war:

Wednesday, March 16

In Mexico City, Mexican officials confirmed that American surveillance drones have been operating over Mexico. According to American officials, intelligence that was obtained using the drones has led to the arrest of several suspects in the February 15 killing of an American ICE agent in San Luis Potosi.

Thursday, March 17

In Ciudad Juarez, an American citizen was shot and killed. Jose Reyes Castro, 26, was at a family gathering when it was attacked by gunmen. The motive is unclear.

Friday, March 18

In Culiacan, Sinaloa, well-known trafficker Onorio Felix Gutierrez, 22, was killed when his car was ambushed by a group of heavily armed men. Felix Gutierrez was married to the daughter of Manuel Torres Felix "M1," a high-ranking member of the Sinaloa Cartel.

In Monterrey, six gunmen were killed during a fire fight with police. The clash began when state police units tried to stop a suspicious SUV, which opened fire on them. Two officers were wounded.

Saturday, March 19

In Mexico City, US Ambassador Carlos Pascual resigned from his diplomatic post. The resignation comes after a public spat with the Mexican government over the content of Wikileaks diplomatic cables in which Pascual was critical of the Mexican government for its lack of cooperation in the war on drugs.

In Acapulco, ten people were shot dead by heavily armed gunmen in a nightclub. Four others were wounded in the incident. All the victims were males between the ages of 25 and 45. The motive for the attack remains unknown.

Near Mazatlan, gunmen attacked the small village of Los Limones. Several truckloads of gunmen arrived and searched for at least three men. Four homes were fired upon and burned to the ground. No injuries were reported.

Sunday, March 20

In Ciudad Juarez, a warning to state police was found painted on a wall. The message is signed by La Linea, the enforcement arm of the Juarez Cartel led by Vicente Carrillo Fuentes. The message warns a police commander that if he does resign, La Linea will begin killing one police officer a day. Earlier in the day, the same officer survived an attempt on his life, in which one of his bodyguards was shot and killed. The sign also accused him of supporting the Sinaloa Cartel.

In Caderyeta, Nuevo Leon, the dismembered body of a man in his 30s was found inside a minivan, which was found otherwise abandoned in a drainage ditch. Notes threatening rival cartels were left at the scene, but police did not release the contents.

Monday, March 21

In Phoenix, three Mexican nationals were indicted for allegedly attempting to purchase sophisticated weapons systems for the Sinaloa Cartel. Among the weapons the three were attempting to purchase were a Stinger anti-aircraft missile and three different types of anti-tank rockets. The defendants were arrested about a year ago; the indictment is just being unsealed.

In Colima, a well-known corrido musician was wounded during an assassination attempt. Twenty-year old Gerardo Ortiz was leaving a concert with his entourage when his SUV was attacked by gunmen wielding assault rifles. His driver and business manager were killed in the attack, and his father and an unidentified woman were also wounded. At least four Mexican singers have been shot and killed since 2008, often because of their drug-related subject matter. In a separate attack, three musicians were wounded during a bomb attack on a concert being held by El Coyote.

In Sinaloa, nine people were murdered in a series of incidents in the state. In one incident, a family of four including two children -- was shot dead by gunmen who had briefly taken over the village of Guillapa, which is near Mazatlan.

In Guasave, five bodies were discovered in black trash bags. The area has a long history of drug trafficking and related violence dating back decades, and has seen extremely high levels of drug-related violence in recent years.

Total Body Count for the past two Weeks: 341

Total Body Count for the Year: 1,661

Total Body Count for 2010: 15,273

Total Body Count for 2009: (approx.) 9,600

Total Body Count for 2008 (approx.): 5,400

Total Body Count for 2007 (approx): 4,300

Total Body Count for Calderon's drug war through 2010: 34,849

Total Body Count for Calderon's drug war to date: 36,510

Mexico
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